By Yvette Henson, San Miguel Basin Extension
Timing is critical when planting a vegetable garden, especially in the short-season areas of our state where every day counts to get a harvest. But what if you missed the recommended planting dates for your area? Is all hope lost for you to have a garden this year? The answer is: “It depends”. It depends on how short your season is, your average summer temperature range and what types of crops you plant.
To make this article easier to understand I want to first define some terms:
Now, back to the question at hand “Is it too late to plant a garden and get a harvest this year?”
It is likely too late to plant and get a harvest of warm-season crops like corn, peppers, eggplants, melons (particularly watermelons). These also require a long season to mature. Let’s use winter squash as an example. Winter squash require warm temperatures around 90 degrees during the day and at minimum 50 degrees at night. They also require around 90-120 days to mature. Although there are short-season, somewhat cold-tolerant varieties of most warm-season crops that will improve the odds to get a harvest in short-season areas with cool night temperatures, these varieties still need the basic conditions for good growth of warm-season crops.
If you have a longish, frost-free growing season with warm summer temperatures, you could still plant and get a harvest of warm-season crops like bush green beans or summer squash. Most varieties mature anywhere from 45- 65 days.
If you live in a location with summer day-time temperatures that reach or exceed 90 degrees then is too late to plant and get a good harvest of cool-season crops like lettuce, arugula, spinach, mustard greens, summer radishes, etc. These are all cool-season crops that may bolt and/or develop a bitter taste in the heat of summer. You could wait until July or early August to plant quick- maturing, cool-season crops like peas, lettuce, fall radishes, etc. These will be ready once the cooler temperatures of fall arrive.
Beaujolais spinach does well planted late to mature in cool fall weather
(photo from Fedco Seeds)
If you live in an area of the state with a short frost-free growing season and cool nights, you may still be able to plant and harvest crops like cabbage, broccoli, turnips, rutabagas, beets, carrots. Just be sure to check the days to maturity on the packet of seeds, keeping in mind that cool temperatures increase the actual days to maturity. I have a 100 day growing season and cool night temperatures, so I prefer to plant peas the first of July. They will be ready to harvest in the cool of fall and will be sweeter.
Also, keep in mind that some crops grow best with certain day lengths. See my previous article titled: "Day Length and Plants".
This isn’t an exhaustive list for sure and I would love to get the input of experienced gardeners. In the comments give your growing conditions and crops that you can plant later than the recommended planting times for that crop.